History and Founding
In the summer of 1980 the lesbian community of Washington, DC was mobilizing. The new Whitman-Walker Health Clinic on 18th St. in Adams Morgan offered health services to the city's LGBT population. African-American lesbian women created the Sapphire Sapphos, a social and support group. And finally, on the heels of Lilli Vincenz's Gay Women's Open House closing, the Gay Women's Alternative of Washington, DC was organized. The club was inspired largely by the GWA of New York City, and functioned as "an alternative to the closet and an alternative to the bars" for the area's lesbian community by creating an educational and social network.
Just one year later, the women of the GWA-DC hosted their first event, a presentation by Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen of the University of Maryland on "Women and Achievement." The talk took place at the Washington Ethical Society, which was used for the club's weekly events on Wednesday evenings for the 12 years of it's existence. Visit the functions section of this exhibit for a look at the different events the GWA-DC hosted over the years.
The early years of GWA-DC history consisted of evaluating and restructuring the organization. In 1980, board members raised $379.55 and scheduled events for 1981. The first Articles of Incorporation, signed in 1981, outlined the club as an educational institution with a 7-member board of directors. Following the success of the club's first few years, the GWA-DC was reorganized in 1983 with a new set of bylaws created in 1984. The board of directors was expanded to 12 members to accomodate growing community interest. This structure remained in place until the GWA-DC closed its doors in 1993.